Review of Daredevil, Season 3

“Turn around and walk the other way….” — Daredevil

This one might be shorter than my typical reviews. For one thing, I didn’t take notes like I usually do when viewing the season, so I may forget a few notable things. For another, I’m a bit pressed for time — more than usual, that is — to get this one out the door, as it were. But, I’ll try to hit the major points….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

So, we finally got to see what happened to Matt Murdock following the events of “The Defenders”. It was both painful and fascinating to watch Matt reluctantly dig himself out of a pit of guilt, grief, self-pity, existential angst, etc. Even once he was physically (mostly) healed, he was still very much broken. Finally, he seemed to find a sense of responsibility and purpose again in bringing Fisk down, perhaps permanently. It was also a relief to see him reunited with Foggy and Karen — once they all worked through some “issues” over Matt’s behavior, that is.

Wilson Fisk was his old self, a psycho with a veneer of civility… most of the time… who quietly orchestrates and manipulates people into doing his bidding, whether they realize it or not. Speaking of which, I had a feeling things wouldn’t end well for Agent Nadeem, and sadly I was right. (It was a surprise to learn that he had been targeted by Fisk so early.) On the other hand, I knew Agent Poindexter was destined to become the assassin-for-hire, Bullseye. There were indications that Fisk was manipulating his life, too, but I admit I was surprised at how much. His journey was not what I expected but did end up being interesting. I hope the final scene indicates we’ll see more of him — perhaps more in character with the comics version? — next season. Kudos to the ironically-named Wilson Bethel for his portrayal of Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter!

Incidentally, you may not realize it, but Dex’s posing as Daredevil was likely taken from a Daredevil storyline from back around 1990, in which Bullseye took over as Daredevil, while an amnesiac Matt suffered an identity crisis.

Back to our program…

It was a bit surprising that the FBI was so easily fooled by Fisk’s machinations, especially once he was in their custody. Of course, much of that turned out to be due to SAC Hattley’s having been coerced into working for Fisk, as were several agents under her command. As for Nadeem, I wouldn’t call him naive, exactly. But, I guess his need to excel (and, hopefully, get a pay raise to ease his debt issues) blinded him to any clues that Fisk was truly the one in control. In the end, he got sucked in, too, and paid the ultimate price.

I missed not seeing Claire Temple this season. She was also absent from Season 2 of “Iron Fist”. Too bad. But, I did like Joanne Whalley as the tough-love Sister Maggie, who served as Matt’s primary caregiver. She also wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with him — verbally, that is — and give him advice, regardless of whether he was listening. (Note: Her involvement seems to have been pulled from the comics’ “Born Again” story.) I was wondering if they would reveal that she was his mother, and sure enough, they did. (I found it a bit sloppy on Maggie’s part, though, since I’m pretty sure she knew of Matt’s enhance hearing.) Matt was understandably hurt that neither Maggie nor Father Lantom had ever told him, but I thought he should have come to terms with it and forgiven them sooner.

Wilson Bethel as Agent Poindexter

Just a note about Vanessa. I always wondered if Fisk was treating her too delicately. I realize that she represents a very idealized image of purity, innocence, class, elegance, and of course love, to him. I can also understand why he wanted to keep the darker side of his business away from her. But, as we discovered this season, she not only wants to be involved, she can be just as ruthless as he is. (I wonder if she’ll ever get the gray streaks in her hair like in the comics.)

Despite the fact that the season took the normal 13 episodes, I didn’t feel it really dragged at any point. There were a couple episodes devoted to the personal histories of Karen and Dex, respectively. At the time, I admit I was itching for more action. But, I have to admit, fleshing out those characters did help move the overall story along, as we learned the secrets that they struggle with. I’m not sure about Bullseye, but those familiar with DD comics will remember that that version of Karen Page became addicted to heroin after she met Matt and later betrayed him to Kingpin in exchange for a fix.

A Daredevil review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fight scenes. Once again, “Daredevil” delivers. There’s just something about them: the brutality and desperation, mixed with a beautiful choreography. There were several fights, but the main four that stand out to me were in the prison, Bulletin, church, and penthouse. The first of these was all Matt, and he hadn’t even fully recuperated! Awesome! The next one was his first fight against Dex (who was never referred to as “Bullseye” in the series, btw), and thanks to the faux Daredevil’s surprisingly deadly ballistic skills, Matt barely made it out alive! The church fight was pretty good — and, of course, ended tragically for one character — but could have been better. (Note: Never turn your back on the bad guy, even if he’s just dropped 20+ feet. Duh!) The final fight involved both Dex and Fisk, with everyone fighting everyone (though Matt saved Vanessa from Dex more than once), and we finally saw Fisk really let loose. He’s really more of a street-brawler who relies on his size too much, but it was sufficient to mostly hold his own and even maim Dex — before Matt gave him a beatdown, that is. (Fisk’s face should have looked more battered and pulped!)

Miscellaneous:

1) Something I can’t put my finger on regarding Matt’s recovery. I can’t help but think that he never did quite get back into full fighting form. If he had been, I think those fights would have ended more decisively in his favor.

2) Great to see Fisk in his trademark white suit and being called “Kingpin” (at least, by the underworld bosses).

3) Do you realize that Matt never wore the DD costume this season?

4) Nice cameos by Rosalie Carbone (Annabella Sciorra) and Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald)!

5) Everyone needs a friend like Foggy.

Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie

I have mentioned in a previous post or two how I would prefer the portrayal of Kingpin was closer to the comics version and without the particular inflections and idiosyncracies that D’Onofrio uses for the character. Still, he continues to do a great job with the character as written. In fact, all the main players delivered terrific performances!

I’d like to end by quoting John Orquiola’s summary at ScreenRant:

“Daredevil’s three heroes, Matt, Foggy, and Karen, spent the season using their respective abilities to fight back against Fisk: Matt through his fists as a vigilante, Karen by being a reporter and investigator, and Foggy via the law. Yet the Kingpin was several chess moves ahead of them the whole time; he masterfully outmaneuvered Nelson, Murdock, and Page until the very end. By telling one macro story involving their greatest villain, while also finally introducing Bullseye (Wilson Bethel), Daredevil delivered arguably their best season of all and possibly the best season of a Marvel Netflix series yet.”

I’m not sure if I’d call it the “best”, but perhaps equal to Season 1. All things considered, another “A-” rating for ol’ Hornhead.

P.S.  One of these days (or months), I’m gonna have to binge-watch all 3 seasons (plus “The Defenders”), just so I can more fully appreciate the journeys of these characters, the terrific acting, and of course those bonecrushing fight sequences.

P.P.S.  Well, I guess that was a full-length review, after all. It seems I had more so say than I thought….

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My Top 9 Favorite Horror Flicks

“Be afraid, be very afraid!” — Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) in The Fly

I’m not really a horror aficionado, which is why I don’t write much about it on this blog. Don’t usually care for horror movies, so I don’t watch many. Sometimes they bore me (e.g., I often fast-forward through “suspense” scenes), sometimes the subject matter is particularly disturbing, sometimes the religious (or other) stereotypes annoy me, sometimes the plot makes no sense (or is barely there), sometimes the acting sucks, sometimes…. But, “in honor” of Halloween this year, this post will be an exception.

There are many kinds of horror film, of course. There are big-monster movies (e.g., King Kong, Godzilla, The Blob, Them!) and small-monster movies (e.g., Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon). I like some of them, but I’m leaving them off this list. There are those that are religion/occult-oriented, which I normally avoid (e.g., The Omen, Carrie, The Exorcist) and are also absent from my list. There are psychological thrillers, ghosts, and haunted houses. There are various types of slashers and urban legends. Zombies are in a class of their own. And, of course, there is the ‘alien lifeform’ subgenre. There are films that combine two or more of these, as well. I’m sure one could come up with a few more variations, but those last few are the types that I am most apt to watch on occasion, so that’s where my faves come from.

So, in no particular order…

1) & 2) Y’know, I don’t think I saw a slasher-type horror film until I was in college. In fact, I think I remember the exact night. It was probably around Halloween, and some guys down at the opposite end of the hall on my floor of the dorm had rented Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). This would have been 1986 or 1987, so it had probably just come out on VHS, and the guys rented it for “Movie Night”. To be honest, it kinda freaked me out. But, over the ensuing years, I think I watched all of the Nightmare franchise, and the first and second ones were my favorites. There’s just something oddly attractive about a burnt-up guy with knives coming out of his gloves, bent on getting deadly revenge on “innocent” teens through their nightmares. I guess.

3) & 4) I never watched any Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think I watched one each of Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, and Chucky, but I couldn’t really get into those franchises. But, John Carpenter’s original Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981) held much more appeal to me. (Maybe it was Michael Myers’ Captain Kirk mask?) Anyway, I can’t remember when I first saw them, but I made a point to eventually watch the rest of that original franchise, too. (Actually, I may have missed one of the later ones.) I saw the 2007 reboot (meh!) but not its sequel, and it will probably be a while before I see the new Halloween (2018) to cap off the original series. For my money, though, the first two Halloween movies are definite classics. (We do not discuss the atrocious disappointment that was Halloween III.)

5) & 6) Now, Alien (1979) was more up my usual alley, ‘cuz it was also sci-fi. So, it had that whole mysterious “alien lifeform” thing going for it. But, the xenomorph was a monster we had never seen before and was well and truly terrifying! Much of the credit for making this work goes to the masterful direction of Ridley Scott. But, I think the amazing performances by the stellar cast — Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm — are what sold audiences on the confusion, panic, and terror of the experience. This one is iconic in both the ‘horror’ and ‘sci-fi’ categories. The first sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), had much more of an ‘action’ feel to it, of course. But, it gave us more and slightly different-looking xenomorphs (along with some more, terrific characters) and retained enough of a horror aspect to let me include it here. An awesome flick!

7) Another classic horror/sci-fi combo came out the same year as Aliens — namely, David Cronenberg’s stylish remake of The Fly (1986). This was one of Jeff Goldblum’s breakout roles, as it was for his co-star, Geena Davis. I re-watched this one a few weeks ago for the first time in probably a couple decades, and it was just as much fun this time. Love watching Goldblum be… Goldblum. The ‘Seth Brundle’ character’s psychological and especially physiological transformation is fascinating to watch. (Respect to Goldblum for putting up with the extensive makeup and prosthetics. Chris Walas, makeup designer for the ‘Brundlefly’, won an Academy Award for Best Makeup.) Sure, it’s a little campy at times, but it’s vintage Cronenberg.

8) We have another John Carpenter entry next, i.e., his remake of The Thing (1982). I can’t remember if I ever saw the original (The Thing from Another World (1951)) with James Arness, though I may have seen the 2011 prequel with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. But, I do remember the first time I saw Carpenter’s version, probably ~25 years ago, during a movie marathon at some friends’ house. This is the one movie that stood out to me. Of course, it starred Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, and a few more familiar faces. (I mentioned this being one of Russell’s best roles in a previous post.) This was another mix of sci-fi and horror, but it added an element of mystery, too. Ray Bottin’s macabre creature effects were particularly memorable. Initial reception of the film may have been mostly negative, but it developed a cult following and is considered by some to be a masterpiece.

9) Speaking of iconic masterpieces, what else needs to be said about The Silence of the Lambs (1991), directed by the late Jonathan Demme? Arguably, this one might fit as well or better in the ‘crime thriller’ subgenre. But, the activities of the creepy ‘Buffalo Bob’ (Ted Levine) and the brilliant, psychopathic ‘Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter’ (Anthony Hopkins) push this film into “horror” territory. To these wonderful performances, add those of Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, et al., plus a compelling story (based on the novel by Thomas Harris), resulting in a smart film that is equal parts psychological thriller and stomach-churning horror flick. Honestly, if it weren’t for the performances of Foster and Hopkins in particular, I don’t think it would have been nearly the success that it was, especially given the subject matter. (Note to self: Add this one to rewatch list.)

I’m sure you will note that certain popular movies are conspicuous by their absence. Aside from reasons previously mentioned, I left out those that had a high comedic content. And, there were a few others that stand out but didn’t quite make the cut. So, here are a few such Honorable Mentions:

Beetlejuice
Ghostbusters
Gremlins
House
They Live
The Shining
The Good Son
Scream
The Lost Boys
From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Final Destination
The Hitcher
An American Werewolf in London

That’s all from me. Happy Halloween and stay safe out there!

Review of Iron Fist, Season 2

“Chance always looks like fate in the tail lights.” — Colleen Wing

I have to say, I didn’t think it would happen. As far as I could tell, the reviews from Season 1 of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” were uniformly bad. The star, the story, the fight scenes, et al., just about everything was disappointing. Yet, for whatever reasons, the powers-that-be decided to renew it for another season. Now that Season 2 has aired and I’ve had a chance to view it, I’ve got a few thoughts to share….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Frankly, I didn’t want to see the Meachums or Davos again. I’d had enough of the Meachum family drama and Davos’ sulking in Season 1. I was hoping for someone new and exciting. But, once again the Netflix team decided to bring back the initial, surviving (pseudo-)villains for another go ’round. Of course, as the story picks up, everyone is dealing with the aftermath of the first season’s revelations and events. Joy and Davos have let their bitterness, jealousy, and frustration twist them, so that they are willing to put aside their differences and go to great lengths in order to get revenge on Danny Rand. Meanwhile, Ward is attending (though not participating in) N.A. meetings and trying… sorta… to be a better person. But, as his sponsor says, “You lead with @$$#0l3!”

Aside from the machinations of Joy and Davos, we have the threat of a nasty gang war, as the Triads vie for dominance following The Hand’s disappearance. It occurred to me that this seemed like a plot device borrowed from “Luke Cage”, where much the same happened over in Harlem. Another similarity was that one antagonist — Davos, in this case — is angry ‘cuz he feels like his birthright was stolen from him. Sounds a lot like the pain in Luke’s butt named ‘Bushmaster’.

I loved that Colleen Wing was such a big part of this story. Adding Misty Knight into the mix was like frosting on the cake. (These two ladies are lovely and bad@$$! Ahem…) I’ve mentioned before how much I’d like to see them spin off into their own “Daughters of the Dragon” or “Knightwing Restorations” series. So, Misty’s suggesting to Colleen about becoming an investigator — even though she was thinking “cop” — and then that talk near the end about “Knight… Wing… it’s got a little ring to it.” is all a very good sign.

Regarding Colleen “teaching” the injured Danny, I don’t get it. He lost strength and mobility in his leg; he didn’t lose his martial knowledge and skills. He’s supposed to be a better overall fighter than her, than just about anyone, anyway. What the heck is she supposed to teach him? Train with him? Sure. Teach him? Hmmm… Maybe the equivalent of a physical therapist forcing him to get back into shape, I suppose. Another thing I don’t get is why Danny and Colleen’s relationship was negatively affected by her training him or getting the Fist or… whatever. What did I miss?

Walker and Davos

The Mary/Walker character(s) was… interesting, but odd. While she was formidable, her fighting seemed somewhat brutish, lacking much style or grace. Maybe that’s because she was taught by the military, as opposed to in a “real” martial arts dojo or a mystical lost city like K’un-Lun? I dunno. Walker comes across as a bit “off”, certainly menacing, but not quite as skilled as one might think she’d be. I would not have picked Alice Eve for the part (though I’m not really that familiar with her work). Still, she did a decent job. Not as nutso as “Typhoid Mary” from the comics (though that version tangles with Daredevil, not Iron Fist), but there’s time for a psychotic break next season(?), I suppose. At least, Walker is now aware that she & Mary share headspace with a third, even more violent persona. Could be interesting, especially if she crosses over into the “Daredevil” series.

The new showrunner, Raven Metzner, appears to have recognized the pacing issues that other reviewers and I have spoken of re the Netflix/Marvel shows. This was mostly fixed with tighter writing, but shrinking the season from the usual 13 down to 10 episodes (as was also recommended) helped, too. Yay!

I have to admit, the Danny Rand character continues to improve. I first mentioned this in my review of Luke Cage’s second season (in which Danny cameoed), noting that he seemed a bit more mature and centered. This was the case for the first few episodes here, but then he wavered a bit as his issues both with Davos and with the Fist itself led him to giving it up. I didn’t care for the “addiction” angle, to be honest, but it did lend itself to a nice parallel (and empathy?) with Ward Meachum’s issues. Best of all, though, were the improvements in the fight scenes, especially Danny’s. I read somewhere that Finn Jones (who plays ‘Danny’) started training — martial arts, weights, yoga — 5 months before the season even began production. He and Jessica Henwick (who plays ‘Colleen’) were in great shape and did most of their own stunts, and it shows. Plus, the producers hired a new fight choreographer, Clayton Barber (fresh off of Black Panther), which led to marked improvements in the fight scenes over those in Season 1. Still not up to the level I would expect for the Iron Fist, but getting there.

Storywise, it seemed odd to me that the power of the Iron Fist — normally only given to the winner of a ritual combat, followed by confrontation with an immortal dragon — could be stolen/transferred the way that it was from Danny to Davos, and then from Davos to Colleen. I’m also somewhat unsure how I feel about Colleen now being the Immoral Iron Fist. Not that there is anyone more worthy. I suppose one could point out that the series is titled “Iron Fist”, not “Danny Rand”. Apparently, this change also gave Danny an opportunity to learn some new stuff during his travels in Asia with Ward. But, I trust that next season will at some point have Danny regaining the title — though, hopefully less painfully for both Colleen and him. (Note: She does look pretty cool with the white Fist, and the glowing katana, too.)

Speaking of Danny’s quest to discover the secret history of the Iron Fist, I noticed that the identity of the person whose remains Davos had shipped was “Orson Randall”. In the comics, this was the wielder of the Iron Fist prior to Danny. They met and had some adventures in the Immortal Iron Fist comic series, most of which I read in trade paperback. Randall is already dead in the Netflix/Marvel universe, but it could be interesting if the writers incorporate other aspects of that story into the show — e.g., other Lost Cities and their own defenders.

Misty and Colleen

Beyond the other positive aspects I’ve mentioned, the character development this season was impressive. I may not have wanted to see Davos or the Meachums again, but I have to give props to the actors and writers alike. In fact, episode 6 stood out to me as having some of the best dialogs between Colleen and Misty and between Ward and Joy, though there were more in the last couple episodes. (The bits with the guy leading Davos around the city from target to target were “fun”, too.) As for Davos, on the one hand, I don’t find him physically imposing at all, being on the short side (though perhaps slightly more muscular than Danny). On the other hand, his unpredictability, simmering anger, thirst for vengeance, and impressive fighting skills did make him a force to be reckoned with. As with Finn Jones, I would probably not have cast this actor (Sacha Dhawan), but he has brought this very driven, self-righteous character to life as written.

On a brief note, I appreciated the additional nods to the design and colors of the classic Iron Fist costume in the flashbacks and in the remains of the costume in the coffin. I have a feeling we’re never going to see Danny Rand in that costume, per se, but perhaps we’ll get a modified version. Someday…

Overall, I agree with the consensus that Season 2 of “Iron Fist” was a huge improvement over Season 1. In fact, whereas I gave that first season a grade of ‘C-‘ (at best), I’d give this season a ‘B-‘ … maybe even a ‘B’. This puts it, imho, just behind “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”. (DD is still the one to beat.) 🙂

My Top 3 Favorite Genre TV Miniseries

I can’t remember why, but a couple weeks ago I started thinking about “old” miniseries that I have enjoyed. Then, I decided to come up with a Top X list (not ranked) and share it with you all. So, here ya go! 🙂

One of the earliest miniseries I ever remember watching was “V” (1983), followed a few months later by “V: The Final Battle” (1984). (For purposes of this list, I am counting them together as one.) When some of my younger readers think of “V”, they probably think of the TV series (2009-2011), starring Morena Baccarin, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, et al. But, that was actually a reimagining of the series from the ’80s, which I loved. “V” stands for the extraterrestrial “visitors”, who appeared in their huge ships with promises of shared technology and peaceful co-existence. Of course, the resistance fighters discover that the human-looking Visitors are not what they seem and have much more nefarious plans. Key Visitors were played by Jane Badler (‘Diana’), Andrew Prine (‘Steven’), and Richard Herd (‘John’). Familiar faces among the resistance included Marc Singer (‘Mike Donovan’), Faye Grant (‘Dr. Julie Parrish’), Michael Ironside (‘Ham Tyler’), and Robert Englund (simple-minded ‘Willie’). Looking back now, I’m sure some of it would look hokey, but for its day, it had some pretty good F/X and a fun plot and characters. Btw, the miniseries were soon followed up with a regular series, but that unfortunately only lasted 19 episodes.

Fast-forward several years to the miniseries “Taken” (2002), not to be confused with the Liam Neeson movies. This one was 10 episodes long and spanned five decades of alien abductions experienced by four generations of three families. From a synopsis on IMDB: “World War II veteran Russell Keys is plagued by nightmares of his abduction by aliens during the war; the Roswell incident transforms Owen Crawford from ambitious Air Force captain to evil shadow government conspirator; the unhappily married Sally Clarke is impregnated by an alien visitor. As the decades go by, the heirs of each are affected by the machinations of the aliens, culminating with the birth of Allie Keys, who is the final product of the aliens’ experimentation and holds the key to their future.” Notable stars included Matt Frewer, Ryan Hurst, Emily Bergl, Heather Donahue, Eric Close. (Other familiar faces appeared in a few episodes, too.) Most memorable, however, was 7-year-old Dakota Fanning in her first big role as ‘Allie’. She narrated the whole thing and, of course, played arguably the central part (on-screen in the last 4 episodes) — a cute, precocious little girl who was much more than she appeared. She was amazing!

A couple pieces of trivia (from IMDB):

1) The character ‘Allie Keys’ was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s list of the “25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends” (1 August 2004 issue).

2) At the time of its airing, it was the highest rated program on the SciFi (now SyFy) channel. The record was beaten the next year with “Battlestar Galactica”.

Speaking of BSG…

If you have read my “Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 1 of 3” post, you might remember that I was a fan of the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series, starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, John Colicos, et al. When the reimagined version debuted as a miniseries in Dec. 2003, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The visual F/X were terrific, of course, and much of the core of the original story was intact. But, as usual, I was put off by many of the changes made from the ’70s version, e.g., naming conventions, appearances of the Cylons, various other stylistic modifications, changing the gender of two major characters, “weak” & whiney Baltar, etc. On the other hand, the writing and acting was quite good, and you had stars like Edward James Olmos (‘Cmdr. Adama’) and Mary McDonnell (‘President Roslin’), along with lesser-known talents Katee Sackhoff (‘Starbuck’), Jamie Bamber (‘Apollo’), James Callis (‘Baltar’), Tricia Helfer (‘Six’), Grace Park (‘Boomer’), and Michael Hogan (‘Col. Tighe’). There were a few interesting, new characters, as well — e.g., ‘Six’, ‘Dualla’, ‘Chief Tyrol’, ‘Gaeta’, ‘Lt. Agathon’. All in all, it was enough to get me back in front of the screen when the regular series started up in Jan. 2005. Like “Babylon 5”, the broader story-arc was made even better with the various character-arcs. Great sci-fi drama, great sci-fi visuals. Highly recommended!

Honorable Mention: Originally, I was going to include in my list The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan. But, it turns out that it was just an unusually long TV movie (142 min.) rather than an actual miniseries. There were several previous adaptations of Baroness Orczy’s novel (1905) about the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution for TV and film, and there has been at least one since — a 1999/2000 miniseries, though, technically, two 3-episode seasons. As I recall, the miniseries wasn’t bad but didn’t have the charm of the 1982 movie that so thrilled me in my youth. There’s no sci-fi or fantasy in the story, but there are shades of the Three Musketeers, Zorro, and even Batman (sort of).

My favorites quotes by Andrews’ foppish ‘Sir Percy Blakeney’:

1) “Sink me!”
2) “Odds fish, m’dear!”
3) “They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
But, is he in heaven? Or, is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel!”

If you haven’t seen any of the above, you should definitely track them down and watch!

Review of Luke Cage, Season 2

“Look… We can take Door Number 1, 2, or 3. Guess what? All the prizes suck!” — Luke Cage

Continuing my tradition of reviewing every season of the Marvel/Netflix shows, I present my observations re season 2 of everybody’s favorite bulletproof brutha from Harlem, “Luke Cage”. (See review of season 1 here.) But, before I go any further, I must lay down the requisite…

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

It was great to see Claire and Misty and Bobby again; not so much Mariah and Shades. More on that later. First, though, a few words about the primary newcomers: Bushmaster and Nightshade.

Not surprisingly, this version of John ‘Bushmaster’ McIver varies quite a bit from that in the comics. The comics version was indeed a muscular Black man from the Caribbean (though St. Croix, not Jamaica), but he wore a white and gold costume. He was a Maggia-connected crime boss whose main foe was Iron Fist and whose primary obsession was Misty Knight. He even hired Luke Cage to kidnap Misty. His strength and durability came from forcing Dr. Noah Burstein to replicate the process he used to transform Cage (aka Carl Lucas) back at Seagate Prison. No martial arts, no addiction to some nightshade concoction, and no connection to or grudge against the Stokes family.

I can see why the writers/producers changed several aspects to fit into the Netflix series story, but it still annoys me. The character (ably played by Mustafa Shakir) was better than season 1’s ‘Diamondback’, and at least as complex as ‘Cottonmouth’ had been. Still, I’m not sure I want him to return. (Plus, the Patois he and his Jamaican cronies (and family) spoke was a pain to try to follow, though I have to admit I got better at it as time went along.) His was a tale of vengeance, grounded in an inter-family feud fueled by murder & betrayal a generation ago. But, he seemed inconsistent in both his rationale and his brutality. I felt little sympathy for him, only for those who suffered because of their nearness to him.

While Tilda Johnson was never actually called ‘Nightshade’ on the show, the comic version is. That ‘Nightshade’ was a Harlem-bred sista with a penchant for revealing, black leather outfits. (That is, until she took over the name and full-body costume of ‘Nighthawk’.) Rather than a doctor with an affinity for “natural remedies”, the comics’ Johnson was a brilliant young student who used her extensive knowledge of genetics, cybernetics, and physics to build her criminal career. She apprenticed under Yellow Claw (who gave her the costumed identity of ‘Deadly Nightshade’), fought the likes of Captain America and SHIELD, escaped from prison and built a small criminal empire, only to be brought down by… Power Man and Iron Fist. At one point, she joined Misty Knight’s Crew of villains hired to fight other villains. Later, the vigilante Nighthawk saved her life, and she turned over a new leaf, becoming his partner/weaponeer/mission control.

Shakir and Dennis

Obviously, the comics version has quite a different look, vibe, and history than we see on “Luke Cage”. She develops connections of a sort to Luke and Misty on the show, of course, but they are very different. The connection to the Stokes family and legacy is totally new. So far, the TV version hasn’t done anything illegal, either, except maybe that one time she helped Bushmaster attack the nightclub. (Patty Hearst Syndrome?) The actress (Gabrielle Dennis) is certainly easy on the eyes, but I’m not sure how I feel about this version of ‘Nightshade’ or whether I want her to return.

Now, on to the rest of the show…

It was a pretty good plot, all things considered, and it really accomplished a lot. However, I feel I should at least mention the matter of pacing. As discussed in a previous post, even the best of these Netflix/Marvel series could benefit from slightly tighter pacing, and this was no exception. I can’t remember specifics anymore, but at a few points, things just seemed to drag a bit. I’m not quite sure how to fix this.

I do know that I would love to see more (super)heroics — fights, surveillance, rescues — by our heroes, especially Cage. What we did get to see was great when it involved the henchman and other normal folk. When it came to Cage’s fights with Bushmaster, though, Cage looked pretty stupid. It wasn’t until their final showdown that he seemed to have learned anything. Or, maybe he was just more focused?

Luke has always relied on his size and his fists, and the experiment gave him enhanced strength and a bulletproof hide. (Now, apparently, even the Judas-rounds aren’t lethal, either.) Most of the time, he can just plow through the punks and gangsters that come after him. But, after his encounters with Diamondback last season and Bushmaster this season, I hope he finally realizes that he needs to fight smarter. I don’t expect him to become a student of the martial arts, but I’m hoping Danny and/or Colleen can give him a pointer or two. Speaking of…

Despite my disappointment with the Iron Fist series and character, I actually didn’t mind that Danny Rand showed up here. He and Luke had some good scenes, especially the warehouse fight. He finally chopped some of the curls, which I thought gave him a more masculine look. He also seemed slightly less odd, more mature, more sure of himself. Still kind of annoying with the constant “be still” and chi stuff. But, I understand that he was trying to help Luke get “centered”, so he could be more at peace and more effective.

Shades and Mariah

I gotta say, both the writing and acting was particularly good. And the characters were not two-dimensional, either. As the story moved along, we learned that the main characters and their stories were much more complex than expected. Even Mariah and Shades (though I still dislike them). In fact, some of the best acting was a) in the argument between Luke and Claire (ep.4?), b) the dialogues between Shades and Comanche (ep.6), c) some of Misty’s stuff (both working the case and dealing w/ her injury), d) the bits between Luke (aka Carl) and his father (played by the late, lamented Reg E. Cathey), and even some of those scenes between Mariah and Shades and between Mariah and Tilda. Powerful stuff!

Regarding ‘Black Mariah’ herself, here’s a nice summary by Kim Taylor-Foster at “Fandom”:

“One of the most interesting things about Mariah Dillard is her ability to manipulate. And not only the people around her, but the audience too. On numerous occasions, we feel for her. Her crocodile tears work on us, and every time we fall for it. She’s not so bad, we think. Circumstances have made her like this; there’s some good inside; she’s misunderstood; she’s coming around – but every time she reveals she’s the unfeeling, selfish “monster” her daughter describes her as.”

Yep. Mariah had an interesting journey into darkness in these two seasons of “Luke Cage”, and I, for one, am happy that she finally met her gruesome end. (I actually anticipated how it was gonna happen, too.)

As in season 1, I wasn’t sure what to think of the Shades character, and I’m not sure how much of that is due to the writing and how much due to the acting. Regardless, I was actually a bit surprised that Shades finally said “enough is enough” to Mariah — even more so that he gave a full confession to the cops and helped to put her away! Despite the horrible things we have seen him do, we discovered that he has self-imposed limits, parameters within which he operates. As Mariah got increasingly brutal and involved in things she never could have imagined just last season (prior to killing her cousin, anyway), Shades found himself stretching his own limits, and not in a good way. I can respect his final decision, even if it was long overdue and there was, of course, a strong element of self-interest and self-preservation.

Misty Knight’s journey was entirely different but at least as interesting. The combination of dealing with her injury (followed by getting the prosthetic arm), trying to figure out her place in (or outside of) the police department, and then the specifics of the case(s) she was working on — made the more difficult by Cage, Det. Tyler, and even the late Det. Scarfe — all made for a physically and emotionally exhausting few days, I’m sure. While I’m happy that Misty’s value was recognized by the top brass who offered her the Captain’s position at the end, I’d rather see her move toward becoming a private investigator and teaming up with Colleen Wing, like in the comics. But, hey, at least she now has her bionic arm!

Misty and Luke kickin’ butt

As for our hero, Luke Cage, the dude has been put through the physical and emotional wringer yet again and, I think, has come out all the stronger for it. The character really is developing into a true hero, even as he stumbles through everything life throws at him. He’s often reluctant (especially at the beginning) and often makes mistakes. But, with the help and advice of family & friends (whether solicited or not), he pushes through and gets the job done. I would’ve liked if Claire had stuck around for more episodes, but I understand why she had to go, both character-wise and plot-wise. I’m sure it helped Cage to know that at least she was out of the line of fire, so to speak. After the various dominoes (and players) fell, someone was going to fill the power vacuum. Cage decided that he was the logical choice to save his home from the various criminal organizations, so he “stepped up”. I like it, though I also understand Misty’s reservations. It remains to be seen just how “dirty” he will get in his efforts to protect Harlem. But, we’ll probably have to wait until Season 3 for that.

After we were introduced last season to the reason for Cage’s estrangement from his father, Rev. James Lucas, I didn’t think the writers would pursue it any further. I was wrong. At first, I thought it was an unnecessary complication to season 2’s plot and, of course, Cage’s life. I also didn’t think I would like the Rev character. But, when I realized that he was genuinely penitent for his past marital infidelity and his treatment of Cage (er, Carl), I wanted them to make peace. And, lo and behold, they did! With Cathey’s subsequent passing, it’s a shame they won’t be able to follow up on this reconciliation.

As with the first season, intertwined in the plot was some “social commentary” — i.e., re racism, oppression, the struggle for minorities (especially Blacks) to “make it” in America, police corruption, etc. Also, as I said before, “If the ‘commentary’ had been more heavy-handed, it might have annoyed me; but, it did sound/feel authentic to me.” I will also note the constant use of the N-word. Unfortunately, that is probably also authentic. It was a bit jarring to me at first, but then I realized that this series is essentially a 13-hour, ‘R’-rated movie. So, nasty words and profanity is to be expected. In retrospect, I’m a bit surprised (and pleased) that other “harsh language” was not more common. Only one “love scene”, too, as I recall.

A few random comments:

o Is it just me, or did Cage’s hoodie in the first fight not get any bullet holes? All the others did.
o The ‘Night Nurse’ song was kinda stupid.
o If Hollywood ever needs someone to portray Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Alfre Woodard would be perfect!
o Nice cameo by Colleen Wing! Both the scene in the dojo ring and the one in the bar were appreciated, as we got to see Misty come to terms with her injury & situation. Plus, we got a great fight scene!
o Misty sure adapted to her prosthetic arm in a hurry! Ya gotta love comic-book science….
o Did you catch the Stan Lee “cameo”?

I would like to think that this season was also the end of the Stokes/Dillard arc. I would really like to see someone/something totally different for Luke to battle in the presumed third season. But, given the way things were left, I’m guessing we will see Tilda/Nightshade return to “get what’s hers” (i.e., the nightclub) — possibly with Bushmaster’s help, possibly in competition with Bushmaster. I hope we’ll see more of Annabella Sciorra’s Italian mob-queen character, Rosalie Carbone. (If so, will Punisher show up? They have a history…)

Final score: I gave season 1 of “Luke Cage” a B/B+. Season 2 rates a little higher, I think — say, a B+, bordering on A-.

Three More ‘Guilty Pleasure’ Novel Series

“Humans can be impossible to understand. But, I don’t let it bother me.” — Chet

I know what it’s like to sometimes get stuck in a rut with your reading or just get in the mood to try something different, but you’re not sure what to try. I have a few family members and friends who read, too, so I sometimes go with recommendations from them. I also wander the aisles at the library, but that can be pretty much hit-or-miss.

So, as I have done a couple times in the past (see “Three Don’t-Mess-With-Me Novel Heroes” and “Three ‘Guilty Pleasure’ Teen Novel Series”), I’ve come up with three more series that you, my faithful readers, might want to consider checking out. Only the first one has a mild sci-fi flavor, and the “action” elements are more subdued than in others I’ve discussed. But, I enjoy them a lot and thought you might, too.

The “In Death” series by J.D. Robb (aka prolific romance novelist Nora Roberts) is one of the largest novel series I’m aware of. As of May 2018, there are 46 full novels in the series (plus a few short stories), though I’ve only read the first 22, so far. (She cranks out two each year, and #47 will be out this September.) The stories take place roughly 50-60 years in the future, so it was the advanced tech and socio-cultural changes that first intrigued me. It’s the characters that keep me coming back. That, plus the series is all about murder mysteries.

The central character is Eve Dallas, a no-nonsense, kick@$$, homicide detective/lieutenant for the New York Police and Security Department. She was abused and orphaned as a kid, so she comes with a lot of baggage. She’s also an excellent murder-cop who demands the same degree of care and dedication from those she works with. Over the course of the series, she gains a partner/mentee and, much to her surprise, a colorful group of friends. Even more surprising, she falls for and marries an incredibly handsome, sexy, charming, multi-billionaire and ex(?)-con by the name of Roarke. They make for an odd couple — gruff, impatient cop and smooth, mega-rich businessman — but they complement each other. Roarke’s skills, contacts, and money are both a blessing (at times) and an incredible annoyance to Dallas. But, in the end, they make it work and put away a lot of bad guys in the process.

If this piques your interest, I strongly urge (as usual) that you begin at the beginning: Naked in Death.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something almost completely different from Eve Dallas and the “In Death” series, maybe the adventures — and I use that term very loosely — of Andy Carpenter will appeal. Andy is a good but rather lazy (not to mention somewhat unorthodox and lucky) attorney in a solo practice who comes into some money and can afford to be extremely selective in picking his cases/clients. Usually, there is a dog involved somehow, possibly even as a client and/or witness.

Andy loves dogs, especially his own, a particularly smart — just ask Andy — and lovely golden retriever named Tara. Andy is often assisted on cases by his P.I. girlfriend, Laurie Collins, who is in turn sometimes assisted by the rather large, mostly monosyllabic, scary-as-hell, eating machine known as ‘Marcus’. (Think Wesley Snipes / Michael Jai White, but with fewer words.) There is an assortment of other (semi-)regulars, too — a cop, newspaper editor, accountant, secretary, client-turned-partner, et al. — but you’ll just have to wait to meet them.

In addition to the fun characters, quirky humor, and entertaining plots, what I like about the series is that it’s located in northern New Jersey, where I used to live for many years. Well, not exactly where I lived, but close enough that I recognize cities & counties (e.g., Paterson, Sussex, Bergen, NYC) and highways (e.g., Rte. 80 and the NJ Turnpike) and can appreciate references to other local phenomena (e.g., the heavy traffic, mobsters). But, you don’t have to be a Jersey native to enjoy reading about the somewhat goofy, highly danger-averse, reluctant-to-take-on-any-case Mr. Carpenter, ‘cuz ya can’t help but like and root for him. (Start with Open and Shut.)

And, if you like dogs, I’ve got another recommendation….

Meet Chet. Chet the Jet. Chet is a smart, yet easily-distracted, German Shepherd and K9 Academy washout who adores his pal/partner at the Little Detective Agency, Bernie Little. Chet can follow a good bit of human conversation (in English), but he often gets confused when it comes to things like metaphors and slang. Also, he occasionally barks before he realizes he’s gonna, and his tail seems to have a mind of its own. Chet loves treats from Rover and Company (and just about anything else he sniffs out), hunting down leads with Bernie, and sinking his teeth into a “perp”. Chet is unusually concerned about finances, more so than Bernie is, but there’s not much he can do about it.

Chet also likes to tell stories about cases he and Bernie get involved in, which somehow end up in books for humans like us to read, beginning with Dog On It. Of course, he occasionally misses a few details, either because he wasn’t present to listen/observe or he got distracted by an odd scent or his mind wandered, thinking about snacks or that cute she-dog down in the valley or maybe some strange habit of humans. But, that’s another subject entirely…. If you like animals (especially dogs) and have a decent sense of humor, I think you’ll really like Chet. Bernie’s pretty cool, too. (Just ask Chet!)

If any of you actually try any of my book recommendations, please leave a comment below to let me know what you liked (or didn’t) about it. Thanks, and happy reading!

Review of Jessica Jones, Season 2

“It took someone coming back from the dead to realize that I’ve been dead, too. The problem is, I never really figured out how to live.” — Jessica Jones

As I watch a series that I know I’m going to be reviewing here, I try to notice things and jot down observations and ideas as I go. When I started watching the second season of “Jessica Jones”, I had a few thoughts, of course, but I couldn’t get into it. It was just more of surly, drunk Jessica treating herself and her friends, family, and associates badly. (I don’t find Krysten Ritter particularly attractive, either, so there wasn’t even that very shallow aspect to enjoy.) Some of those supporting characters were doing mean or stupid things, too. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this review, but I felt sort of obligated.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Then, I started to notice something else. I began to see the parallels between the individual characters’ stories, and I appreciated more what the writers were doing. Yeah, OK, maybe it was obvious to you. But, sometimes I get so wrapped up in other stuff that the finer points — or, perhaps it’s the “big picture”? — get past me.

Trish/Patsy: On the one hand, Trish is so wrapped up in her career, that she’s willing to throw away a relationship with a genuinely good guy. On the other hand, she’s so obsessed with somehow obtaining superhuman abilities of her own, ostensibly so she can be a champion for the people, that she ends up throwing away her career and putting her own health and safety — her life, really — at risk. Along the way, she lies to and manipulates her friends and family, alienates fans, and threatens to destroy someone else’s career (though that guy sorta deserved it). And don’t get me started on her overbearing mother….

Malcolm: This poor guy can’t seem to catch a break. His boss (Jessica) verbally abuses him and constantly takes him for granted. The woman he has a crush on (Trish) finally pays attention, even sleeps with him, but it turns out she’s just using him for her own, selfish reasons. He gets the crap beat out of him, and Trish almost gets him — a recovering addict — hooked on something new and dangerous. His loyalty is constantly being tested. Like they say, with friends like these…. One of the ways he “copes” is by engaging in a few one-night stands — looking for affection or approbation, I suppose. In the end, at least, he starts making some hard choices and gaining some independence.

Jeri: I can see why they replaced frumpy, hetero, male Jeryn Hogarth with an attractive, lesbian version. Much more “exciting”, and it gets the LGBT vote. But, this gal does not have it all together. Her former employee/girlfriend is suing her, and her law partners are trying to kick her out of her own firm. Then she’s diagnosed with ALS. What does she do? Parties with ladies of the night, gets dirt on her partners in order to blackmail them, and sleeps with the homeless girl (and protected witness, of sorts) that she’d given sanctuary in her home. The normally sharp Ms. Hogarth allows herself to be conned into thinking she’d been healed, then her home is burglarized by those she trusted. Ouch!

Janet McTeer as Alisa Jones

Alisa: The character of Jessica’s previously-thought-deceased mother, played by Oscar-nominee Janet McTeer, is introduced. Happy reunion? Not exactly. Turns out, Alisa is the superpowered individual who has been hunting & killing people in Jessica’s orbit. The experiments that gave her the powers (like Jessica’a) also gave her a hair-trigger temper, so she’s got serious “anger management” issues that put those around her in danger. Thus, the faked death and her isolation — with the mad doctor responsible, who she’s fallen in love with — for 17(?) years. Once she finally meets her daughter, they clash both physically and ethically. Will she survive on the run (with or without Jessica), or go to prison for the rest of her life, or is she destined to be killed by law enforcement?

Jessica: As previously mentioned, our protagonist still struggles with many issues, mostly derived from childhood trauma and psychic (and perhaps physical) rape/torture by Killgrave, which she “deals with” by constantly drinking, acting like a jerk, and occasionally banging a random stranger. (Of course, with her enhanced constitution, it takes 3x the usual amount for her to get buzzed, let alone drunk.) Another big factor is the fact that she killed Killgrave (last season), and it is eating at her, such that she wonders if that makes her a “murderer”. Her P.I. business is barely surviving, and now a larger firm is attempting to eliminate the competition one way or the other. Her landlord wants to evict her, and the new super is more than happy to help — at least, at first. Her friends (i.e., Trish and Malcolm) are always “nagging” her. And, then, her murderous mother (who is even stronger than Jessica) enters her life, and Jessica is torn about whether or not to assist the cops in bringing Alisa in versus letting Alisa (and the doc?) escape versus going on the run with her herself. Meanwhile, she has to constantly (try to) keep dear ol’ mom from ripping limbs off of people who she feels threatened by or beating them to death. Oh, plus, she then finds herself (somehow) in a relationship with the formerly hostile new super, which adds unwelcome wrinkles to whatever plan she adopts for the future. Sheesh! Given all of this, I guess I do feel badly for our reluctant hero. She has good reasons to feel angry, frustrated, and to put up those defensive “walls”.

So,… all of the primary characters are dealing with some pretty heavy issues — identity crises, varying types of abuse, perceived betrayal, uncertain futures, etc. –, both personal and business-related. In response, they abuse various substances, have frivolous sexual encounters, do some other rather selfish things, even commit crimes. I’m guessing they all know what the right thing to do is, but it’s a struggle, and they all screw up on several occasions. If they were my friends, I’d be rather disappointed in them, even while trying to be sympathetic regarding their respective “issues”. I have to admit, though, it all sadly has a pretty realistic feel to it. And realism, after all, is a hallmark of these Netflix shows. (Except for, you know… the superpowers stuff.)

On another, related matter…

Personally, I thought the “love scenes” — which there were more of, this time around — were a bit gratuitous. I mean, yes, they made sense within each character’s journey and how they were dealing with stuff. But, we don’t need to see/hear, for example, Jessica getting humped in a bar restroom or Jeri getting high (and making out) with lesbian/bisexual hookers to get the idea. There are less in-your-face, more PG-rated ways of letting an audience know what’s going on (or about to, or just did). Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer more restraint and self-censorship. I guess the assumption is that if they’re doing ‘R’-rated violence, they “have” to do ‘R’- (or, at least, PG-13-) rated sexuality? However, I do appreciate that there wasn’t much, if any, nudity — although, I may have missed something when fast-forwarding past those scenes.

Despite this, I liked Season 2 better than the first one. As terrific as David Tennant’s portrayal of Killgrave was in Season 1, the subject matter was not to my liking. Of course, the theme of “abuse and how to deal with it (or not)” has become central to the series. But, this season felt a bit more… comfortable(?), I guess. I dunno. I also liked the hopeful note that the finale left on for some of our main characters: Mal’s new job, Trish’s recovery (and then some), Jessica’s settling into her new relationship with Oscar. (I suspect, though, either she’ll screw it up in Season 3 or something bad will happen to him. Shame, too, ‘cuz I like Oscar. And his kid.)

Overall, I give Season 2 of “Jessica Jones” a solid ‘B’, maybe ‘B+’.

Review of Star Trek: Discovery

“We come in peace, that’s why we’re here. Isn’t that the whole idea of Starfleet?” — Comm. Michael Burnham

With all the heated rhetoric and division within fandom over “Star Trek: Discovery”, I wasn’t sure I wanted to weigh in. Plus, I’m sort of torn about it myself. But, ultimately, I thought I might find it cathartic to force myself to put my thoughts down. Besides, it’s just my opinion, and it isn’t worth any less than anyone else’s, so why not?

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

I did an earlier review of the pilot episodes, essentially the prologue to the rest of the season. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to jump over and do that now, since this is sort of a “sequel” review, and there are a couple things addressed there that I won’t touch on here.

USS Discovery

I have to admit, they pulled off a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming. Take Captain Lorca, for instance. He definitely had an independent streak, and I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him dodge, if not outright disobey, his orders in order to carry out his agenda. I chalked this up to “realism” (in his mind, at least) and a bit more aggressive nature. But, of course, I had no idea what that agenda truly entailed until towards the end. I remember some fans commenting about him being mean, evil, even speculating that he was from the “Mirror” universe. Even after that scene when he held a phaser on Cornwell, I was more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he was overstressed and suffering from a form of PTSD. (She still should have thrown him in the brig.) Maybe I’m obtuse, or maybe I just didn’t want to see it, but I didn’t. And they — i.e., those other viewers — were right. (I was suspicious re the eye-sensitivity thing, though.) Still, I’m a bit disappointed to see Mirror Lorca go, ‘cuz he was an interesting character.

I was a little surprised that they went to the “Mirror” universe so soon, though. Were they — i.e., the writers/producers — so nervous about the show being able to establish itself on its own that they felt they needed to (re-)introduce a fan-favorite place/situation? Have to say, I enjoyed it, and it may indeed have helped. Also, bringing back Georgiou the way they did was very intriguing. I assume she will pop up on occasion in subsequent seasons, and I’m fine with that.

On the other hand, the changes to the Terran Empire’s fashion choices was a bit irritating. I commented on the Klingon and Starfleet uniforms in my earlier review. Regarding Starfleet, this article made some valid points about changes in uniform styles both in previous ST series and in real life military, so I suppose it makes sense that even the vaunted Terran Empire can fall victim to fashion trends.

Btw, my favorite Mirror version of the Discovery crew was young Captain “Killy”. I have to assume the real “Killy” is as deadly as she is ambitious, so she killed her way up the hierarchy very quickly. The TE uniform and straight blonde hair were quite flattering for “our” Cadet Tilly. I enjoy watching the brilliant-but-unsure “prime” Tilly — sweet girl — and appreciated seeing her grow a bit this season.

The other twist that both amazed and frustrated me was the fact that Ash Tyler was, in fact, Klingon. Not only that, he was Voq, the albino follower of T’Kuvma seen back in the pilot 2-parter. Some fans predicted this, but I refused to accept it. And, in a sense, I still refuse. I don’t care how they explained it, it’s too far a stretch for me to believe that Klingons would be capable of this level of sophisticated surgery and genetic manipulation. (Actually, I don’t buy the entire procedure being possible for any race, but, hey, this is science fiction, after all.) The explanations by L’Rell and Dr. Culber seemed to conflict somewhat. But, near as I can figure, L’Rell not only made Voq anatomically human (and a match for the captured Lt. Tyler) but somehow transformed his DNA, too. (That’s the kicker for me.) Then, she essentially copied Tyler’s consciousness and overlaid it onto Voq/new-Tyler’s mind, while programming the Voq personality to take control at the proper time. (Except, it didn’t quite go as planned.) This new body somehow showed no signs of the physical trauma of being remade, even at the genetic level? C’mon!! Frankly, it would have been more believable for L’Rell to have simply cloned Tyler and “inserted” a copy of Voq’s mind/memories to stay in the background and take control when required. Heck, if Voq was hellbent on punishing himself, he could’ve had his brain transplanted into a Tyler clone.

Voq / “Tyler”

That said, the Tyler/Voq character not only gave us an idea how fanatical his faction was, but it also had a lasting impact on Burnham and her own growth as a character. (Plus, although Tyler/Voq is no longer part of Starfleet, they left it open for him to appear in later episodes, which could prove interesting.) I was glad to see Burnham evolve as a character. How could she not from all that she experienced personally and professionally? We even got to see a little more emotion from her. (Not much, though. Not sure if that is due to the writing/character or the acting.) In the end, it appeared that she was able to forgive herself, or at least come to terms with what happened in the past, and accept reinstatement into Starfleet with rank returned.

Saru seems to have grown as a character, too. He is more confident in himself, less ready to run, which must take great willpower. His friendship with and trust in Burnham seems to have been restored, as well. This development also pleases me. (Did that sound slightly imperious?)

I didn’t like Stamets from the get-go. He was arrogant and abrasive. But,… as the season progressed, I became a bit more sympathetic to his situation — i.e., frustrations with his pet project and the fact it was co-opted by Starfleet. Stamets himself even seemed to soften just a bit through the various events, not least of which was the tragic loss of his partner, Dr. Culber. Hopefully, the character will continue to be more likable in the future.

I also hope we get to spend more time with and learn more about Detmer, Airiam, Owosekun, Rees, and Bryce — i.e., the rest of Discovery‘s recurring bridge crew — next season. That would be in line with the way the show was advertised as not focusing on senior officers, after all.

Of those major characters who were killed off (or, at least, one version of them was) in season 1, I am most disappointed about Rekha Sharma’s Commander Landry. Sharma has an impressive genre resume, including stints on “Smallville”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “V”, and “The 100”. I was looking forward to getting to know Discovery‘s small-but-dangerous (and somewhat abrasive) Security Chief, seeing what makes her tick, watching her interactions with the rest of the crew, etc. Alas, ’twas not to be.

I have mixed feelings about Harry Mudd. I liked that we got to see him, but I’m not sure I care for this harder-edged, vengeful, even bloodthirsty version of him. Gotta love a good time-loop story, though.

My comments on the writing will be fairly brief. It was a somewhat mixed bag, perhaps, but nothing near as bad as some critics claim. (In fact, the story improved as the season progressed.) I think some people just look for things to complain about. Were there predictable or confusing plot points? Occasionally. Did characters do or say dumb things? Undoubtedly. Were there better ways to develop and/or resolve some things. Perhaps. None of this is unique to “Star Trek: Discovery” or to any Star Trek series or to any series, period. Give the creators and crew time to find their footing, as it were. Besides, just think how much room for improvement there is! 😉

Of course, though I addressed them in my earlier review, I need to make a few additional comments about the primary canon issues….

The Klingons. What more can be said about the Disco-Klingons? There are elements of the old, familiar Klingons, but so much has changed. From their physical appearance to their fashion sense, these Klingons may as well be a whole new species. Some fans think people like me are complaining too much about this. They say, “Look at the previous changes in Klingon appearance. You accepted those!” Yes, but the distance (so to speak) between the Klingons that debuted in the original “Star Trek” and those that debuted in Star Trek III (1984) (and then used in subsequent TV series) was much shorter than between either of them and the Disco-Klingons. Plus, the prior changes have been explained satisfactorily (in DS9 and ENT, I believe), with the most human-looking version being a brief aberration, so it is series canon. And, while we must admit there are a few inconsistencies from previous series, it is best to stick to established canon whenever possible.

I have played with a few ideas of how to get either of the earlier versions of the Klingons to replace the current Disco-Klingons.

1) Perhaps the Klingon houses we’ve seen represented are one Klingon race, while the STIII/TNG version make up the other houses. Wipe out the former, and the latter can take over.

2) Some sort of DNA-rewriting drug or disease could infect the Disco-Klingons, changing them all over a few years to the STIII/TNG version. But, that wouldn’t explain why the one encountered by the NX-01 crew in the ENT pilot had the STIII/TNG look.

3) L’Rell and Tyler/Voq could go back in time several thousands of years, inadvertently cause the annihilation of the Disco-Klingons, and become the “Adam and Eve” of the new Klingon race, which looks like those in STIII/TNG. (I’ll leave it to Klingon historians to figure out how far back they’d have to go. Probably pre-Kahless.)

If nothing like any of these scenarios happens, then the sudden “re-imagining” of the Klingon race was, in my book, not only unnecessary but inexcusable.

In regards to the more advanced look of the ships and other technology, I can understand and accept a certain amount. For example, if they made the Starfleet ships look just a bit updated — say, something like the old Enterprise 1701 refit or 1701-A — and without the low-budget look of the original series, that would probably be acceptable. Keep the general designs and colors, so that everything is recognizable as belonging to the Prime universe. But, making everything look generations more advanced was a mistake, IMO, even if we’re pretty sure tech would actually look closer to that than to something clearly designed in the 1960s.

Similarly, it was a mistake to introduce cloaking technology and hologram communications at a time far earlier than they were introduced in established canon. (I talked about this more in my review of the pilot episodes.) These technologies aren’t limited to just one, experimental ship (see below), since we’ve seen multiple Klingon vessels now use the cloak and both Klingons and Starfleet using the holograms, rather than the (mostly) flatscreen viewers that were standard in all previous ST series. It might be possible to write out further use of cloaking technology (for a few years, anyway), but I don’t think that is feasible with regards to the holograms. If the new series’ creators were so set on using “new” tech, they probably should have set the show further in the future.

Stamets x 2 in mycelial network

As for the paradox of the spore-drive’s existence, I think there is still time to resolve it — if not in Season 2, then in a later one. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Discovery is an experimental ship using an experimental drive technology. There is no need to assume that it will get any further than that. When they were still using the giant tardigrade to navigate, I thought they might abandon the spore tech for ethical reasons. (I.e., “we can’t use it if it means having to effectively enslave these creatures.”) Once Stamets realized he could be the navigator, the situation changed. But, it obviously still has its dangers, not only to Stamets (or whoever else might be hooked into it) but there’s the possibility of damaging the mycelial network and unraveling hyperspace (or something like that). I suspect this will tie into whatever decision is made to cancel use of the spore-drive, especially after Burnham’s rousing speech about the Federation needing to stick to its principles.

About that speech… The “darker” nature of the season’s story arc and a certain amount of ethical ambiguity expressed by the words and actions of certain high-ranking Starfleet officers were among the turn-offs to many long-time Trek fans. I admit, it bothered me, too. But, it appears that that was all part of the writers’ plan, as the characters were brought to a situation of existential threat that forced them — thanks to Burnham’s actions — to take a hard look at what they stood for and what they were willing to do to “win”. In other words, this was a turning point in Federation and Starfleet history that led to the (hopefully) more consistent, honorable, shining example that we know from other ST series.

Of course, as this article reminds us, the people and events of the Star Trek universe — even Federation and Starfleet — have never been flawless or reached the ideals they strive for. Even our heroes are “human”.

Ultimately, I think it would have been fraught with many fewer problems — both in terms of canon violations and audience acceptance — if the producers had opted to go with a non-prequel series. Something concurrent with TNG/DS9/VOY might’ve worked, but I think fans (including me) are/were more than ready to boldly go into the 25th century or beyond. (See a few suggestions here.) The war aspect was another negative point for many (though it wasn’t the first time Star Trek did that), and I think longtime fans would prefer a return to focusing on exploration and first-contact situations. Maybe someday we’ll get it.

There are those fans and other viewers who have little-to-no respect for the idea of canon and the need to maintain consistency across stories told within a larger framework of people, places, and things. Such people will write me off as perplexing at best, but more probably with some degree of condescension. At the other end of the spectrum are hard-core Trekkies/Trekkers. These are more likely to have, in addition to a healthy respect for established canon, certain parameters of tone and adventure in their mind within with a “real” Star Trek series must operate. I am much more sympathetic to these fans, but I suspect some of them will just shake their heads and wonder how I can call myself a Trekkie/Trekker.

But, I have to call it the way I see it. I for one will continue to watch “Star Trek: Discovery”, because, in my assessment and for my particular sensibilities, the positives still outweigh the negatives. It might not feel or look quite like other Star Trek series (would it be wrong to quote IDIC here?), but it’s still Star Trek, and I’m willing to stick with it — at least, for now.

P.S. I realize that there are other aspects of “Star Trek: Discovery” that were inconsistent with established canon, like the use of the familiar delta symbol, which was supposed to be limited to the Constellation-class ships (or, maybe just Enterprise?) until later adopted for all Starfleet. Much as I like James Frain in the Sarek role, there are a few inconsistencies in his character compared with the older version portrayed by Mark Lenard. There’re also all the questions about inserting another sibling for Spock, which somehow never got mentioned in any other series or movies. Etc. But, I didn’t have the time or energy. You can read more about these issues and others here.

Inhumans Mini-Review and Fan-Cast

Yep, I did it! I watched the “Inhumans” mini-series.

I have to say, it didn’t suck as badly as I’d expected, based on some comments I’d read. But, it was very disappointing. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve liked the Inhumans, especially the Royal Family, since their early appearances in the Fantastic Four comics. So, although I realize they might not be the easiest to adapt to live-action, what with the supersized dog and the leader/king who can’t speak (without destroying stuff, that is), I was still hoping for a decent show. So much for that idea…

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Now, there were positive points. For example, I thought Lockjaw looked great, and his teleportation effect was cool, too. Other visual F/X were good, and they got the general color schemes for the characters right. Triton was surprisingly bad@$$. (I don’t remember him being so deadly in the comics, but then I haven’t read any Inhumans stories in several years.) What else? Um,… the girls were cute, and, uh,… I’m sure there was something else I liked….

One annoying thing I noted early on was when otherwise-intelligent people kept doing stupid things or *not* doing sensible things. For example, I realize that Black Bolt’s sign language would not have been understood by Americans, but why didn’t he at least try to communicate with the police? He (and his family) obviously knew a lot about some Earth things, including how to read/speak/understand English. Couldn’t he have written stuff down? Also, how did he not realize that stealing would bring attention from law-enforcement? Then there’s Medusa, who didn’t think to take Auran’s comm unit. Also, since she must have known of Auran’s incredible healing ability, why didn’t she make sure Auran was dead after their battle, or at least shackle or tie her up?

There were inconsistencies, too, like Gorgon’s boots being shaped like hoofs (as they should be), and then later just looking like normal boots.

The writing and acting was generally bad or lackluster. I’ve seen some of the actors before, and they didn’t suck then. So,… do we blame the director? Black Bolt in particular was odd. For one thing, I kept thinking I was watching Jim Caviezel, ‘cuz Anson Mount looks so much like him. Something about the set of the jaw and the eyes, I think. But, while Mount was forced to do much of his acting via his eyes, I’m afraid it just didn’t work. His range of expression seemed to be stuck between alarmed, frustrated, and just plain bewildered. (I don’t remember his performances in anything else, so I can’t say if he has displayed much more depth or range.)

And Maximus? I was really looking forward to a raving madman. After all, they don’t call him “Maximus the Mad” for nothing. But, what we got was a better-behaved Ramsay Bolton who just wanted to be one of the cool kids. Sigh!

Another disappointing thing was the limited displays of Medusa’s and Karnak’s powers. I think I read a critique somewhere that said her prehensile hair wasn’t a good effect, but I thought it was decent. In my opinion, shaving her hair off in the beginning, while a dramatic plot point (and true to a comic storyline, I think), was a bad move. We fans want to see Medusa (and her hair) in action! (Also, Serinda Swan looks <much> better with hair.) As for Karnak, they made a point of injuring him to reduce his amazing analytical abilities, which then gave him a crisis of confidence. Related to this was his limited fighting. Was this intentionally done, because Ken Leung has little-to-no martial arts ability? Again, I wanted to see Karnak the Shatterer kick butt! He had a couple OK scenes (though one took place mostly in the dark) — and it was kinda cool the way they showed him calculating trajectories and probabilities and such — but he could/should have been <so> much better. (Props for giving him the facial tats, but why no enlarged cranium?) Wish we had seen more of Triton, too. He must’ve been reveling in having all that water to swim in! And we didn’t get to see Black Bolt fly, either, dangit!

In the end, I suppose I would have chosen a different story that allowed everyone to better showcase their powers.

Alright, I’ve said enough about that. Now, I’d like to present my choices for if I were to cast the Inhumans Royal Family. I won’t get into Inhumans history or powers/abilities or (for the most part) the actors’ resumes, this time. Let me say up front that, as usual, I tried to stick to the general height (within reason) and build of the characters as seen in the comics. Also, I think Black Bolt is one of the oldest of the royal siblings & cousins, so I put him at mid-30s to 40. Crystal would be the youngest at early- to mid-20s. Everyone else should probably be late-20s to late-30s.

Philip Winchester

Nicole Steinwedell

I considered both Ryan McPartlin (6’4.5″,b.1975) and Eric Dane (6’1″,b.1972) for Black Bolt, but they’re both a little older than I preferred, and McPartlin’s a little too tall. So, I went back to someone I’ve recommended for other square-jawed hero roles: Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981). For Medusa, I wanted someone who could play both regal and compassionate queen, preferably redhead (though that’s going to be CGI, anyway), and (here’s the toughest part) tall. Either Eva Green (5’6″,b.1980) or Emily Beecham (5’5.25″,b.1984) would be great, except Marvel’s wiki puts Medusa at 5’11”. It is really tough to find good actresses in that height range. But,… though she is usually blonde, I think Nicole Steinwedell (5’11”,b.1981) fits the bill! (I even found a pic of her in a purple/violet dress!)

Roman Reigns

Nicholas Tse

The warrior Gorgon is tall (6’7″) and muscular, so I thought a wrestler might be a good choice. In fact, it didn’t take me long to realize that Joe Anoa’i (aka Roman Reigns) (6’3.25″,b.1985) is practically perfect. I mean, look at this guy! Put him in hoof-boots, and he might even reach 6’7″. Karnak, on the other hand, is a foot shorter and slimmer (though still muscular). It has never been clear to me if he is supposed to be Asian-looking. (Sometimes, he even looks French to me, for some reason.) But, that’s the way the series went with the character, and I agree. Jet Li (5’6.25″,b.1963) might’ve been a fair choice, but he’s too old and still has a thick accent. So, my vote is for Nicholas Tse (5’9″,b.1980), who is an actor & martial artist who happened to go bald for a recent part (see pic).

Andy On

Saoirse Ronan

Medusa’s baby sister, Crystal, is a pretty strawberry-blonde who clocks in at 5’6″. I decided to go with the talented Saoirse Ronan (5’6″,b.1994), known for her work in Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna, all before she turned 17. She could certainly play young Crystal with some depth. (Coincidentally, in recent years Crystal was married to (and subsequently separated from) Ronan the Accuser, the Kree warrior/judge.) As for Karnak’s older brother, the water-breathing Triton, I opted for another martial artist/actor: Andy On (5’11”,b.1977). (I would’ve considered him for Karnak, but he’s too tall.) He is a little older than I’d like for the role, but he has the right build, and I think he can easily pass for 30-something.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we have Black Bolt’s younger brother and intermittent enemy, the evil and treacherous Maximus. I saw someone else fan-cast Joaquin Phoenix (5’8″,b.1974), who coincidentally played ‘Commodus’ to Russell Crowe’s ‘Maximus’ in Gladiator. While a little older and shorter than preferred, I agree that he could’ve been a great Maximus the Mad. While Maximus has had a number of different looks (i.e., costume, armor, hair, build), it was a more recent version (rightmost pic above) that made me think of Dominic Rains (6′,b.1982). If Rains looks familiar, it is because — and here’s another one of those interesting connections — he has been playing the evil (insane?) Kree overlord/station-commander, Kasius, on the current season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, who creates Inhumans for his own entertainment and profit. Perfect, no?

Rains as Kasius

Dominic Rains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that is an Inhumans movie/series I would love to see!

This concludes our review/fan-cast combo for the Inhumans Royal Family. Hope ya liked it! Don’t be afraid to leave a relevant comment below….

Top 5 (Sorta, Kinda) Christmas Movies

“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas.” — John McClane, Die Hard 2

For whatever reason(s), I have never been a big fan of “classic” Christmas movies (e.g., It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol) Once upon a time, I’m pretty sure I saw It’s A Wonderful Life all the way through; probably some version of A Christmas Carol, too. They are certainly great stories, and I can see the old-timey appeal. Still, I rarely-if-ever have a desire to watch them — especially the black-n-white stuff. I’m just not that sentimental, and I rarely go for “heartwarming”. I don’t care for a lot of what passes for humor these days, either, so National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (or any NL films, for that matter) are off my list. A Christmas Story is a modern classic, but I think I only ever watched part of it. May have to give it another try….

What I have for you today, though, are a few of my favorite genre films that, while not exactly “Christmas movies”, they do take place on or around Christmas. As The A.V. Club’s Zack Handlen calls them, they are “Christmas-adjacent” films. The holiday aspects may factor into some scenes, but the plot or “message” is hardly of a Yuletide flavor, either secular or religious. I like them because they are fun, genre flicks, regardless of any Christmas connection.

So,… shall we begin?

Young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is stranded at home by himself, while his large family goes on Christmas vacation in Europe unknowingly Kevin-less. When two bungling crooks attempt to burglarize the supposedly empty house, they have no idea who or what they’re up against in the mischievously creative 10-year-old. I doubt director Chris Columbus or Fox knew the hit they would have on their hands, either, or the near-iconic status Home Alone (1990) would reach. What a lot of people forget about now, though, is the Christmas link. (I vaguely thought I remembered it but had to verify.) Obviously, this is not exactly sci-fi/fantasy, but it does sort of fit the action-adventure genre (at purely PG levels), which is why I included it in this list. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger kids or those who already tend to get into trouble, but it is fun for us older kids. Time for me to throw it on the re-watch list!

The (mis)adventures of L.A. cops Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon (1987) surely launched stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover to superstar status. (Although, Gibson had already hit it big with the Mad Max franchise, and Glover had done The Color Purple and a couple other notable films.) It was the first of four movies in the film series, which eventually led to a now-airing TV series. The somewhat eccentric Gary Busey’s role as the formidable villain “Mr. Joshua” probably helped his career, too, for a time. The film is an ’80s action classic and beloved by millions. But, sometimes we forget that the events of the movie occurred around Christmas-time. Remember the wreaths at the police station, and the tree, lights, etc., at Murtaugh’s house? Heck, the music accompanying the opening credits is “Jingle Bell Rock”! Anyway, an awesome, action-packed, genre-defining, Christmas-adjacent buddy-flick!

I love the Rocky films! (Well, less so the last two.) The blood, sweat, and tears, but also the themes of personal growth, perseverence, integrity, redemption, pressing on despite tragedy, etc. Of course, I always get a thrill when good-guy Rocky “rises up” to teach the arrogant “bad guy” a lesson. Finally, the theme music in these films is terrific! (The main theme and “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III are the best!) Of course, Rocky IV (1985) also introduced us to Dolph Lundgren as the towering Soviet fighter Ivan Drago (aka “The Siberian Express”), whose devastating punching power later earned him the nickname “Death from Above”. Not only was the movie a great action-drama, but it served as a fun microcosm for the U.S.A. vs Soviet Union of the late Cold War era. But, let’s not forget that the film’s unsanctioned fight in the Soviet Union took place on Christmas Day, and we can see the decorations at the Balboa home back in the States. Счастливого Рождества!

Yep, Gremlins (1984) is a Christmas-adjacent movie, and shame on you if you forgot.

Keep him out of the light, don’t get him wet, and never, ever feed him after midnight! If ever there was an object lesson for the importance of following instructions, this would be it. Alas, when young Billy got his new pet Mogwai, he wasn’t very careful and, um, bad stuff happened. Namely, he unleashed a horde of diminutive but “malevolently mischievous monsters” on his home town. Naturally, it is all played to comedic effect, even when property is destroyed and people are seriously injured or even (presumably) killed. That’s why the film, which spawned a sequel a few years later, is classified as “Comedy, Fantasy, Horror”. It’s a somewhat unusual mix, but it fits, and it works for this particular adventure in scary-silly violence and wanton destruction. Featured talent include Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Judge Reinhold, Keye Luke, and Hoyt Axton. And, yes, it’s Christmas, as evidenced by, for example, the opening credits over scenes of the holiday-festooned center of town, Christmas trees being bought and decorated, and all accompanied by the sounds of Christmas seasonal tunes. (“Baby, come home…!”)

There was no way I could do this list without including every action fan’s favorite “Christmas movie”, Die Hard (1988). Bruce Willis’ turn as the perpetually-smirking, smart-mouthed, tough-as-nails NYPD cop, John McClane, earned him the love and respect of a generation. It was a role he was made to play, and I’m sure he has (mostly) loved playing him in all five films in the franchise. (There is a rumored sixth on the way, too.) There are also memorable performances by Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, et al., as well. Of course, as fans of the film know, the action begins when McClane flies to L.A. on Christmas vacation to join his wife at her company’s Christmas party. Mayhem ensues when a group of well-armed, yet high-tech, thieves take everyone (except McClane) hostage, while they carry out a major heist. Or, try to, ‘cuz McClane starts kickin’ butt (and punching and shooting everything else) and generally ruining the bad guys’ Christmas. Yippee-ki-yay!! (P.S. The first sequel, Die Hard 2 (1990), is equally entertaining, imho, and also takes place around Christmas. So, consider it packaged in with the original on this list.)

OK, I decided to throw in a couple bonuses that are more… traditional:

I’m not really a Will Ferrell fan. Most of his stuff is just too silly for me. And his “Buddy” character in Elf (2003) is incredibly silly, naive, etc. So, why do I like this movie? Despite it all, “Buddy” is still somehow charming and lovable, as the big-hearted goof who retains the child-like innocence most of us have lost and need to get in touch with again. Or, something like that. Throw in wonderful performances by the enchanting Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, James Caan, Peter Dinklage, and others, and you have a wonderful, feel-good movie for the holidays. (Plus, I just love the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” scene.)

 

Now, The Nativity Story (2006) is neither action-adventure nor sci-fi/fantasy. (Though, I’m sure some would say the source material is, at least in part, fantasy. I disagree.) However, perhaps the supernatural aspect of the virgin birth and later events in the story of Jesus of Nazareth are sufficient to qualify it here. Still, my appreciation for it lies in that it is one of the most historically accurate and true-to-the-source-material of films based on events described in the Bible. It’s not perfect, but it comes close. It is well-done, and the casting does not suffer from “whitewashing”. Genre fans will also like that it features Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ciarán Hinds, and Alexander Siddig.

There are several more Christmas-adjacent movies, of course, and I’ve even seen and enjoyed a few — e.g., Batman Returns, Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Edward Scissorhands, L.A. Confidential, et al. In fact, those five I just mentioned might very well go on the list (though probably not in that order), if I expanded it to a Top 10. What are some of your favorites? (Check out this handy list for some help.)

Oh, yes,… “Welcome to the party, pal!”